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A record high proportion of college leavers have progressed to positive destinations according to the latest College Leaver Destination report from the Scottish Funding Council.

The report, which looks at students completing their qualifications in 2020-21, has found that 91% of sector leavers moved into work, training or further study between 3 and 6 months after leaving college. This is an increase of 6.6 percentage points (pp) on the previous academic year, although the 2019-20 figures were suppressed by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The previous highest proportion was in 2017-18 when 89.1% of qualifiers progressed to a positive destination.

The authors of the report emphasise that college leavers in 2020-21 were entering a very different job market than that experienced by their counterparts from the year before. Leavers from 2019-20 faced the uncertainty of the second half of 2020 when the vaccination programme was yet to be rolled out. The uncertainty continued into the first half of 2021 when the country remained mainly in lockdown.

Those leaving college in 2020-21 experienced a job market that was quickly recovering from the pandemic. According to today’s figures, this resulted in a reduction in the number of leavers entering unemployment or being unable to work. At the same time, progressing to further study at university remained an attractive option for those not entering the workforce after completing their college qualifications.

The report also includes 95 qualifiers who were forced to defer their studies from 2019-20 as a result of the pandemic. Three quarters of these students with confirmed destinations continued in college and 17% went on to find a job.

Martin Boyle, Director of Policy, Insight and Analytics at the Scottish Funding Council, said:

“These latest figures reflect a return to a more normal set of choices for college leavers after the disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic. Only 9% of college leavers were unemployed or unavailable for work compared with the 15.6% we reported last year.

“Against the positive backdrop of a recovering jobs market we also saw evidence of a continuing appetite for further study with 34% of college leavers with HE level qualifications going on to study at university.

“The report shows the value of the work done by Scotland’s colleges and the importance of the pathways that exist between colleges, universities and employers in Scotland.”

The statistics also show that sectors of the economy such as engineering and tourism have seen a strong recovery as employment destinations for college leavers.

College Leaver Destinations 2020-21 is available from today.